Preserve local landscapes through food

AUTHOR: Katharine Millonzi, Yonder Sustainability & Agritourism Advisor

Katharine Millonzi

Food is a big part of why we love to travel. Whether a street cart snack, a three course harvest meal or a sip of special wine, our memories of travel are woven together by what we eat and drink on our journeys. Food is a great connector; we share stories, form relationships and build communities around the table. By exploring the unique tastes of regional cuisines, we also open our minds to new cultures around the world, by listening to and learning from others and their perspectives.  Enjoying localised ingredients is a direct way to gain insight into local lives and traditions. 

For nature tourists and wellness travellers, food not only offers us a way to expand taste buds but also to act responsibly within our hospitality experiences. Nature connects us all, so by supporting the human communities we visit and the ecosystems they inhabit, we promote wellbeing on all levels. 

There are several ways that food-focused tourists can engage in a sustainable way. 

  1. Go to where the food is grown and participate in the process. Farms offer wonderful authentic, innovative culinary experiences that allow for conscious eaters to learn while they relax. Many farmstays offer an antidote to a fast-paced, fast-food world through their attention to regional uniqueness, craftsmanship and terroir. This translates into delicious meals made with ingredients with stellar stories.  For example, at a “farmers apprentice”  workshop at Verdant View Farm in Paradise PA,  participants work in small groups to perform each step of the cheesemaking process: learning about basic components and equipment, heating the milk and watching the transformation of milk into curds and whey, draining the curd in a cheesecloth, and sampling their own batch at the end of the workshop.
  1. Find local flavors. By supporting local food producers, like Brunner Family Farm in  McKinleyville, CA , travelers promote a regenerative cycle for both community and territory by adding value for producers, and supporting land conservation and environmental education efforts.  A tour at Brunner shares how they produce nutrient dense food and humane animal products on 10 acres with the smallest environmental impact as possible. 

Even if you're not staying directly on a farm, seek out off-the-beaten-path establishments that celebrate foods that are made or caught locally or prepared traditionally. Localized, ecological gastronomy emphasizes varieties and breeds that respect the preservation of local landscapes, and utilize production methods in balance with the local climate. Ingredients from the region come with a smaller carbon footprint than ingredients flown in from halfway across the world - and result in fresh, healthy, inspired meals for chefs and diners alike. 

Spend Authentically. As the bumper sticker states : “No Farms, No Food!” Not only does farm-to-table cuisine support local suppliers and ecologies, responsible culinary tourism initiatives are key to sustaining regional socio-economic development because they allow farmers to diversify their income. Supporting farmers directly helps them to stay on the land, connecting a region’s best natural assets with its regenerative economic potential. While hardly a panacea for the complex food and farm viability issues we face globally, tourists who spend dining dollars directly at farm-to-table restaurants contribute to sustainable rural economic development. Culturally traditional foods tend to support culturally traditional livelihoods and lifestyles, ensuring that future generations will also be able to savor authentic, diverse tastes of place.